Father Knows Best: The Stepfather (1987)

Last year when I reviewed The Stepfather 2009, I also planned on watching and reviewing this version as well. But it was late at night, the wind was blowing my cat wreath on my door making it sound as if someone was knocking, and the wind caused the tree branch by my bedroom window to slap the pane. As I started the film, Terry O’Quinn staring into the mirror after murdering his family scared me so that I had to put something fun on.

Later when I went to rewatch the film, it was no longer on Amazon prime for free. So I decided to wait.

This past May I had my niece for the weekend and usually we watch Kdramas, Cdramas, anime, or romantic comedies. But she also loves horror and was in the mood to watch something. As we flicked through what Amazon had to offer this film came up, and even though it was an “old film” (her words) she decided to give it a try. I told her is scared me the first time I tried watching it and after we both agreed it was way better than the remake. Terry O’Quinn just does such a great job at being creepy.

So this film is party based on John List, who murdered his family and assumed another identity, and partly on some of the issues the screenwriter, Donald E. Westlake was facing as a new stepfather to a teenage girl. However, while both things influenced the film, it isn’t really based on a specific incident.

The film begins with Terry O’Quinn having murdered his family and changing how he looks-shaving his beard, changing from glasses to contacts, etc. This scene is especially creepy as he stares into the mirror and into you, your eyes!

Creepy…

He packs up his things and heads out, passing by the butchered remains of his family. This is probably the most graphic scene of the film and really shows the character of the “Stepfather” as he calmly takes care of everything, not bothered or touched at all by the massacre he created. He leaves, takes the ferry, dumps a suitcase of incriminating evidence into the lake, heads to a new town, and creates a new identity.

A year has passed and the “Stepfather” is going by Jerry Blake, is a real estate agent for American Eagle Real Estate, and has married widow Susan Maine (Shelley Hack); becoming stepfather to Jill Maine (Jill Schoelen). Susan of course loves him and prepares a gourmet dinner every night with dessert. Jill on the other hand hates him, and has started acting out in school. She confides to her therapist that she hates being around Jerry (although has no specific concerns or issues that are harming her safety) and is trying to get expelled and sent to a boarding school away from him. He therapist encourages her to try and give Jerry another chance. Jill reluctantly agrees to.

Ugh…this guy

Meanwhile in Seattle, Jerry’s previous wife’s brother, James Ogilvie is obsessed with the case and trying to find “Henry” (what Jerry went by previously). He is living in his car and harasses the newspaper reporter who wrote about the crime and the police officers. Both tell him to move on, but the reporter does agree to write a new article and include a picture, to see if someone has seen “Henry”.

To be honest, Jim looks insane and his drifter lifestyle didn’t help him any. If I encountered him, I would have brushed him off as he sounds like a fanatic.

Back in Jerry’s world he is hosting a BBQ for his friends, clients, and neighbors. He gives a big speech about community and family-very sweet and heartwarming, but something Jill finds disgusting. At the BBQ one of the adults has a newspaper and they start discussing the article about the killing by “Henry”. The article has no picture, but even though there is no direct way to connect it to him, Jerry gets freaked out. He changed the subject to lighter things and turns the paper into a newspaper hat for one of the kids.

Afterwards he goes to the basement, his work area, and has a full on devolved freak out. He starts manically rambling, about his childhood. Originally, the story included scenes of Jerry’s past and how he was abused as a child, but I actually prefer the story with those scenes cut. I think that Quinn is expressive enough in the way he acts and behaves that you can tell he grew up in an unhappy home and is striving for his “perfect TV family”. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Jim Carrey’s character in The Cable Guy, although more murder-y.

Stephanie sees him there as she was sent to get ice cream from the freezer, and she gets really unnerved at seeing him like that. He tells her that he gets tired of always being perfect and the salesman, so he needed to unwind.

Yeah that was some weird angry venting going on. Stephanie leaves to the party but searches for the newspaper that seemed to upset him. She sees it is an article about the killer and writes to the newspaper to get information, convinced that Jerry is the killer. She shares her findings with her friend, but she isn’t convinced.

Meanwhile, Jim accosts the newspaper reporter for not including a picture, but he shares that his editor nixed it. Jim decides to continue his drifting and searching, getting closer to where Jerry is hiding out.

Stephanie waits for the mail to come, but one day Jerry comes homie earlier and steals it. He then goes to a photography studio and buys a print which he switches out and then places the envelope back in the mail. When Stephanie gets it, she is disappointed that it turns out to not be Jerry, although you think she would be happy that her stepfather isn’t a serial killer, but whatever.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bondurant, Jill’s therapist has wanted to meet with Jerry for a while. As Jerry knows the risk of speaking to the therapist, and having him figure him out, he has been avoiding him. Dr. Bondurant refuses to take no for an answer and sets up an appointment to buy a house under an assumed name.

Jerry starts off really charming and nice, but quickly figures out that Dr. Bondurant has no interest in getting a house, but is there to emotionally probe him.

Jerry Blake: I wanna ask you something. Are you interested in buying a house… Or are you interested in me?

Jerry can’t have that and the doctor is gone. After he has murdered him, Jerry searches his coat, expecting him to be a reporter or cop and is surprised to see he is the therapist. He quickly cleans up and dumps the body in the car, placing a rock on the gas pedal so it will crash and everyone will think it was a car accident.

Jerry tells Stephanie of the death (after he is told by the receptionist) and the two bond. They work on a bird house together and everything is good in the home…until Stephanie starts dating her friend and Jerry catches her kissing the boy. He yells and wants to call the police on him, but Sue convinces him not to. Stephanie is embarrassed and furious!

Jerry perfect family ideal is destroyed and he starts preparing himself for a new life. He quits his job, finds one in a new town, a place to rent, and a widow. Once he has everything prepared he decides it is time to end the ladies’ life.

Jim has finally tracked Jerry down and found his home. He speaks to Sue who won’t give out much information, causing Jim to leave and plan on coming back later. Sue then calls Jerry at work, only to discover he quit.

That night when Jerry comes home is an incredibly creepy scene. He keeps getting his multiple identities confused and he starts mixing them up. Kind of like that Criminal Minds episode when they have a similar situation in Miami.

Jerry tries to soothe the upset Sue, by promising her it was a receptionist’s mistake. But he tells her the wrong name! He then completely devolves, and Sue is confused and shocked.

Jerry Blake: Wait a minute, who am I here?

Sue: Jerry?

Jerry Blake: That’s right. Jerry Blake. Thanks honey.

But even though it looks like everything is calmed down, Jerry decides the time to strike is now and kill Sue, smacking her in the head with the phone and knocking her down the stairs. He then prepares to go after the dog, but changes tactics when Stephanie returns home.

However, the Blake/Maine family never locks their door, which seems weird for a killer who is always worried about people being after them-and Jim just walks right in.

Jerry is about to attack Stephanie, but Jim tries to come at him and Jerry slashes him instead. Stephanie, frightened, runs and tries to find a way out. As Jerry blocks the only exit out, she runs upstairs into the attic, where she is followed by Jerry.

Stephanie tries to find something to defend herself with but there is nothing. Jerry advances, but falls through a rotted section of the floor. Stephanie tries to escape, but Jerry recovers and comes after her again. All looks lost until Sue, who has managed to crawl up the stairs after being smacked in the head and thought dead, grabs the gun and shoots Jerry twice-Stephanie finishing up the job by stabbing him in the chest.

At the end, Stephanie is with her mom, hacking down the birdhouse Jerry made and destroying it. I’m sure Sue will never date again after that experience.

From Gilmore Girls

A very creepy film that is much better than the remake. And you know what I always say about that-the original is always better.

No Facebook cover for this one either.

For more on The Stepfather, go to How Much Do You Really Know About Him?: The Stepfather (2009)

For more serial killers, go to People Don’t Realize That There are Killers Among Them. People They Liked, Loved, Lived With, Worked With and Admired…: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

For more ‘80s films, go to Goofy Ghosts and a Treasure Hunt: Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (1987)

Horrofest X: Have Yourself a Haunted Halloween

It’s that time of the year again! Time for another Horrorfest, 31 days of horror, mystery, monsters, etc.

So I started Horrorfest back when I first began blogging. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it, the direction I wanted to go in. Since I like to watch scary movies every day in October, I decided to review them, and I had so much I fun I continued every year.

I know some people aren’t interested in it or would think it has nothing to do with my blog’s title, but you know who would love it and be so into horror films?

When I started this, I used a lot of stills from the movies I was reviewing and ended up with a a bunch of photos I couldn’t reuse for future posts. Since then I try to add less, unless I think I can use it for future posts or that it is crucial to the story. Instead I reuse old photos and I try to caption each photo with what film it came from, but at times I forget.

Over the years I have established a set of rules and annual films categories.

Rules are there must be at list one film or TV show episode:

  • From every decade (1930s-2020s)
  • by Alfred Hitchcock
  • Is animated
  • made by Disney
  • by Stephen King
  • by Tim Burton
  • starring Vincent Price
  • And is in some way Jane Austen related

The Jane Austen one is the hardest to do, although two years ago I had several. There was the Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans Alta Mar AKA High Seas,Death By Persuasion” from Midsomer Murders, Rebecca, and Strong Woman Bong Soon; along with the film that led to Sense and Sensibility (1995) being made-Dead Again.

Last year we had several films with Jane Austen Bingos (actors from Jane Austen productions spotted in another film), and I finally reviewed Northanger Abbey (2007), one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptions. I also started a new tradition, #CelebrateHalloweenwithNorthangerAbbey, something I will be continuing this year! So be sure to join me!

Another tradition I added a few years ago is dressing Jane up in costume every year. Last year I did Jane the Vampire Slayer to go with my review of Return of the Vampire (1943).

This year I decided to make Jane a Ghostbusters.

Well, I hope you enjoy this year’s picks-so far we have vampires, zombies, aliens, mysteries, monsters, gothic stories, film noir, and more!

For the original Horrorfest, go to I Don’t Belong in the World: Carnival of Souls (1962)

For Horrorfest II, go to There Are Many Strange Legends in the Amazon: The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

For Horrorfest III, go to Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

For Horrorfest IV, go to You Cannot Conquer It. It has Conquered You!: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

For Horrorfest V, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)

For Horrorfest VI, go to One of Our Guests is a Werewolf, I Know It.: The Beast Must Die (1974)

For Horrorfest VII, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)

For Horrorfest VIII, go to Count Dracula the Propagator of This Unspeakable Evil Has Disappeared. He Must Be Found and Destroyed!: Horror of Dracula (1958)

For Horrorfest IX, go to Time for You to Awaken, Master. Time for You to Go Out: The Return of the Vampire (1943)

People Don’t Realize That There are Killers Among Them. People They Liked, Loved, Lived With, Worked With and Admired…: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

People don’t realize that there are killers among them. People they liked, loved, lived with, worked with and admired could the next day turn out to be the most demonic people imaginable

So a few weeks ago I posted my review of The Stranger Beside Me based on the book and life experiences of Ann Rule-the woman who worked and was friends with Ted Bundy. In that review I mentioned watching this film first and that I was working on my review-well that time has come.

So this film is told from the point of view of Ted Bundy’s girlfriend-Elizabeth Kendall and her experiences in meeting, falling in love with Ted Bundy, and then seeing him arrested and on trial for the murders.

The first thing I find interesting is the parallel’s with both were single mothers of daughters, both said that he was incredibly charming, trusted him, believed in his innocence far into the trial-yet when both heard the description of the man the police were looking for mentioned him. I mean they were both utterly shocked when all came out about what he did, but yet at the same time there seemed to always be this thought that not everything was as it seems.

Hmm…

So first off I thought this Netflix film was extremely good. The set design, costuming, etc was amazing. Everything evoked the 1970s and felt firmly like we were stepping back into that world. The Ann Rule film tried to go for a ’70s feel but it was mostly late ’90s/early 2000s.

Zac Efron as Ted Bundy was phenomenal as you could tell he really studied the mannerisms and tone of Ted Bundy as when you watch interviews of Ted Bundy-Efron was spot on. I also liked how the film reenforced what many thought of him at the time, handsome, charming, etc.

So I understand where the film was coming from, they wanted to show it from his girlfriend’s point of view, Elizabeth Kendall (Lily Collins)-how she saw him, how he loved her, showing that psychopaths aren’t always easy to spot as monsters right away as they are often charming, etc. The only complaint I had was that they didn’t show the abuse his girlfriend received on her side. True, she never mentions Bundy hitting her in her book and of course he didn’t kill her-but he abused her in other ways.

I wished that had shown a little more of how he treated her as it also explains why she called in with his name. Like all victims, she had that moment when she felt something wasn’t right, clarity, but the police didn’t take her seriously.

While it was an interesting view and the acting was fantastic I preferred The Stranger Beside Me. I think that film was more equal in its depiction-showing the charming, kind, attractive qualities-but also the dark side. I think they could have been a bit harsher in the depiction of Ted Bundy, showing more of his dark side-but otherwise it was an interesting film and very informative.

For more on Ted Bundy, go to How Well Do We Ever Really Know People?: The Stranger Beside Me (2003)

For more films based on a true story, go to I Don’t Understand, I Just Wanna Be Your Friend!: Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

For more Lily Collins, go to You’re Mother is a Shadowhunter…Like You: The Mortal Instruments, City of Bones (2013)

For more serial killers, go to How Much Do You Really Know About Him?: The Stepfather (2009)

How Well Do We Ever Really Know People?: The Stranger Beside Me (2003)

How well do we ever really know people?

The Stranger Beside Me (2003) is based off the book by Ann Rule about her experiences working alongside and being friends with Ted Bundy (you know before she realized he was killing people). So I really, really want to read this book, but unfortunately we do not have it at the library as someone checked it out and never returned it.

We had the movie, but I of course would prefer to read the book first and then watch the film.

Sigh!

However, then I saw the new film on Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked and Incredibly Vile (review pending) and then I really wanted to read the book/watch this film.

So instead of waiting any longer I decided to watch the film.

Tell ME!!!!!

So while it is a TV movie and didn’t have the same amount of money that the Netflix production did, I preferred this film over the new one.

I’m sure you all know by now that I am not a remake fan.

The starts off with Ted Bundy (Billy Campbell) with the dead body of a woman. We then switch to Ann Rule, previously a cop, now a true crime reporter-is close friends with Ted Bundy and talking to him about how she got this great deal to write a book on this person who has been killing people. He asks about the book and she shares a little about it and the crime, the two reconnecting as they haven’t seen each other in a while-we then flash back.

Ann Rule had met Ted Bundy earlier in her life when they both worked at a crisis counseling center and let me tell you that watching it felt like being in a whirlpool. Here is this guy who they estimate ended up murdering and raping over 100 women actually helping and saving people-and being incredible kind and caring while he did it. Ann has said that she witnessed him saving lives and that she trusted him with her own daughter (she has stated that if her daughter was older she would have set them up, she would have made a play for him if she was younger). He used to walk her to car every night and make sure she got in safely.

The thing I really liked about this film is that it is much more balanced than Extremely Wicked and Incredibly Vile as we are shown how Ann views him-but also we see the horrible things he is doing. From how he emotionally abuses and manipulates his girlfriend to him killing women (it doesn’t show anything but alludes to it.) In fact, watching this showed what it is like to be in an abusive relationship-you see the ugly dark side, while the abuser shows the rest of the world the charismatic side.

So in the beginning, Ann Rule didn’t believe Ted could be the killer as all the good he has seen him do. But as events transpired and she began to believe he is he murderer, the film got darker as well.

Creepy…

One thing that I found really interesting, was that before Elizabeth called in her tip about Ted Bundy, Ann shared it with the police as when she heard about the car and the guy being called Ted he popped in her head-but she didn’t really believe it until much later.

I also liked how this showed how he tried to interject himself into her book and have the story written his way. It reminded me of the way he tried to direct the TV interviews .

I thought it was extremely good-even though some of the acting and costumes might not be as good, the story was great and I really liked how it showed how he could charm and be this friendly guy, while in reality he was a dark and twisted man.

For more films based on a True story, go to I Don’t Understand, I Just Wanna Be Your Friend!: Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

For more serial killers, go to How Much Do You Really Know About Him?: The Stepfather (2009)

For more TV films, go to Lifetime Didn’t Go Psycho Enough: Psycho Mother-in-Law (2019)

Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Cat Burglar Black

I was reorganizing the library’s young adult graphic novels and came across this book. It has a gothic and spooky old house, a secret society, a mysteriously hidden treasure, and teens being trained to be a part of a thieving ring.

Of course it sounded right up my alley.

And not just perfect for me, but for someone else…Catherine Morland. Yep, another book for Catherine Morland’s Reading List.

What is Catherine Morland’s Reading List? The idea came mostly from the fact that I am a huge Gothic fiction/mystery fan. Before I met Jane Austen, (and I still do), I devoured books that I know, if Catherine Morland was real and alive, she would have been reading.

It started with reading one, and then before I knew it I had a list of thirty I was planning on reviewing. What can I say, other than:

Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala

We start off with Katherine “K” Westree dressed in all black with a mask, running at night from a wild boar.

We then go back three weeks earlier…K is a orphan who was placed in an orphanage run by a woman called Mother Claude, who was using the orphanage to create a ring of cat burglars, thieves, and pickpockets.

She forced the kids to do it, threatening and abusing them if they didn’t. If they tried to run away, she would hunt them down and force them back.

The were eventually found out and all the children sent to reform school. After K served her time she stayed on as a live-in counselor for the younger children. She was then located by her aunt who had been searching for her, and her aunt invited her to live with her at Bellsong Academy, a spooky gothic mansion.

Haunted house!

When she arrives at the Academy things are not as she expected. Apparently the school has lost funding and there are only three students there at this time, orphans who have nowhere else to go: Dory, Morrow and Zel. And it turns out that she can’t see her aunt as she is deathly ill and fully covered in bandages.

Now this made my radar go off. Anytime people are all covered up in bandages like that, it means they aren’t who they really say they are. That’s not her aunt, something must have happened to her.

Hmm…

The people running the academy are  the headmistress Mrs. Turtledove, teacher Dr. Kuvac, teacher Mr. Dell, and teacher Mr. Fahr. There also is a very creepy handyman who goes by Stump and the housekeeper Ms. Mund.

Everything seems off with the other girls and the faculty. And then K hears a voice in the wall warning her that she is being watched. Definitely creepy!

SUPER creeped

That night K sneaks out of her room ad uses all her training to try to get in her Aunt’s room, but is caught by the other girls as they have been watching her. It turns out the school is another thief ring,  but an “old, established” one called The Obtainers. Her mother and father were a part of it, and her aunt as well.

K’s father chose to leave the group when she was little and took K with him, that’s why she was never a part of it until now. The rest of the ring are glad she is here as she is incredibly talented and they need her help. Bellsong Academy originally belonged to the Quinn family. When Anodyne Quinn inherited the house she discovered that her family fortune came from pirating, she was deeply ashamed she had been benefiting from stealing from others. She decided to give back by opening the Bellsong Academy, the first woman’s college west of the Rockies. After she passed she left provisions so that it would continue on. There is a rumor of treasure hidden somewhere on campus and no on has ever found it.

Hmm…treasure?

The other thing she left behind was three paintings-one in her youth, one in middle age, and the third as an older woman posing with the graduation class. Each painting was given to a separate family in the neighboring village, they were given a large sum every year-and all they have to do is put their painting on display. The map to the treasure is rumored to be found within those three paintings.

Rebecca (1940)

K finds this extremely odd that they need her to “borrow” them, and I agree. Like if they are this all important and amazing league of thieves why haven’t they done it already?

I mean for real!

K isn’t interested but they insist they need it to keep the academy going and to pay for her aunt’s care. The other girls try to convince her as they give her the grand tour of the property-old time fountains, a sun dial, a “haunted cabin”, a prehistoric sinkhole, and share the stories of the serial killer, “The Moon Killer”, who was rumored to run around the woods.

Spooky…

K decides to train with them, as why not what else has she to do, and they have a practice room right out of a superhero comic. K outshines them all and that night joins them as they break into the first house.

Each house is eccentric and when they leave they are missing a girl. Did they decide to take off and get their freedom? Were they captured? Is The Moon Killer back? Is there something nefarious going on in those houses?

Hmm…

K manages to score every painting and starts putting the clues together. But finding hidden treasure isn’t the only surprise she will discover.

This was really interesting mystery/gothic tale and I liked the character K and the twist ending at the end. I had figured out half of it, but the other half surprised me.

Wow!

The only thing I don’t like is that we never find out what happened to the other girls. I searched but it doesn’t appear that Sala wrote a sequel. I guess it will be an unsolved mystery.

We’ll never know.

I really enjoyed the the style of it too, it has an Edward Gorey feel to it, and I just love Edward Gorey. I recommend reading it even if it has a few loose ends.

For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: The Poison Diaries

For more mysteries, go to Creepy Demon Mask & Haunted Hampstead Heath House of Horrors!

For more Gothic fiction, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: House of Salt and Sorrows